by Edward Ellegood
Florida Space Development Council
April 13, 2017


SpaceX Gaining Substantial Cost Savings From Reused Falcon 9

SpaceX saw significant cost savings by reusing a Falcon 9 first stage in a launch last week, a key factor for the economic viability of reusable launch vehicles. SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said the company expects to see greater cost savings on future launches of reused Falcon 9 vehicles as the company reduces the amount of refurbishment work it does on the recovered stages. “It was substantially less than half” the cost of new first stage, she said. That cost savings, she said, came even though SpaceX did extensive work to examine and refurbish the stage. “We did way more on this one than we’re doing on future ones, of course,” she said. The company’s long-term goal for first stage refurbishment is to turn the stage around within 24 hours for another launch. — Space News 

The precise cost of launching last week’s SES-10 satellite into orbit is rumored to have been in the $30 million-$40 million range, or about half the $60 million-$70 million normal fee. SpaceX performed a flawless launch using a ‘pre-flown’ first stage, and in a later briefing, SpaceX founder Elon Musk also said that the satellite’s protective fairing was also recovered. The fairing, which shields the satellite on its way to space, costs $6 million, he said. “The fairing has its own thruster control system and a steerable parachute,” he added. — Advanced Television



Blue Origin’s Status Update

The highlight of last week’s Space Symposium conference in Colorado was arguably the display of Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicle and an appearance by company founder Jeff Bezos. Jeff Foust reports on the status update Bezos provided on the company’s plans to send people on suborbital spaceflights, perhaps in 2018. — Space Review

Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos said April 5 that his company was still hoping to start flying people on suborbital space tourism flights by the end of next year, while suggesting crewed test flights will not start this year as previously planned. Bezos backed away from earlier statements that called for flying people on test flights later this year. “We’re going to go through the test program, and we’ll put humans on it when we’re happy,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to be 2017 at this point. It could be.” — Space News

Jeff Bezos gives an update on the development of New Shepard at an April 5 briefing during the 33rd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (credit: J. Foust)


Scientific Missions Will Require Heavy Lift Too

The next big leaps in scientific discovery and exploration, including Mars missions and large space telescopes, will require heavy-lift launch capability, a panel of experts said. With current rockets “we’re able to get one metric ton on the surface,” said John Grunsfeld, the former NASA associate administrator for science. “We really need to be able to get five or ten metric ton pieces to assemble the ability to get people on the surface of Mars.” — Space News


ULA Wants to Build Railroad to the Moon

“I’m on a mission to produce a manned presence outside of this planet and I am going to build a railroad between here and the Moon,” Bruno said. “The key is a flexible space transportation system, a fleet of space trucks that are reusable and stay in space. When we do this there will be a $3 trillion economy in space and 1,000 people will be living and working in space. That will change everything here on Earth. If precious metals were not longer expensive, what will that do for humankind if we can accomplish this in the next 20-30 years.” The company’s vision, called “Cislunar 1000,” calls for space manufacturing, commercial habitats and prospecting for space metals within five years, space tourism and mining for rocket fuel on the Moon within 15 years and asteroid mining, large-scale manufacturing and people living on the Moon within 30 years. — The Gazette


Orbital ATK Confident in Prospects for Large Launch Vehicle

Orbital ATK says it is well positioned to win a U.S. Air Force competition early next year to support continued development of a new large launch vehicle to serve government and commercial users. The company announced April 3 that it was making progress on what it calls the Next Generation Launch (NGL) program, on which the company and the Air Force have spent a combined $200 million to date through awards made as part of an effort to develop a replacement for United Launch Alliance’s workhorse Atlas 5 rocket.

Mike Laidley, vice president of the NGL program at Orbital ATK, said the next major milestone for the program is the release this summer of a request for proposals from the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) on the next phase of that effort, called the Launch Service Agreement (LSA). The Air Force plans to make up to three LSA awards in early 2018 to complete prototype vehicle development, including certification test flights.

The NGL vehicle uses a combination of solid- and liquid-propellant stages. The lower two stages are solid motors, based in part on solid rocket motors the company built for the space shuttle and NASA’s Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket. Editor’s Note: The new Orbital ATK rocket would share a launch pad (LC-39B) with NASA’s heavy-lift SLS rocket at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Virginia spaceport planners (and some NASA officials) had high hopes not long ago that larger vehicles like this one would one day be able to operate at Wallops Island. — Space News

Orbital ATK is developing the NGL rocket to launch from a multi-use pad at Kennedy Space Center. Credit: Orbital ATK artist’s concept


NASA Finally Sets Goals, Missions for SLS – Eyes Multi-Step Plan to Mars

After years without concrete missions beyond the current EM-2 test flight, NASA has finally unveiled a plan for multiple missions of its SLS rocket. The plan would see NASA initiate a multi-step approach to human exploration in cislunar space while simultaneously developing the architecture to enable human missions to Mars – all of which is dependant on funding from the U.S. Congress, which is currently seeking deep cuts to U.S. government spending. —


Blue Origin Ready to Support NASA Lunar Missions with Blue Moon

If NASA’s human spaceflight program is redirected back to the Moon, Blue Origin is ready to support it with its proposed “Blue Moon” lunar lander system, said company president Robert Meyerson. Blue Moon can “cost effectively soft-land large amounts of mass onto the lunar surface,” Meyerson said at the 33rd Space Symposium here, his first public comments about the system since its existence was first reported in March by the Washington Post. “Any credible first lunar settlement is going to require such a capability.” — Space News


NASA Funds Ideas from Science Fiction

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program, also known as NIAC, has been backing far-out aerospace concepts for almost 20 years. It started out as the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts, modeled after the Pentagon’s DARPA think tank. NIAC’s latest crop of 22 tech projects was announced this week, and they include a few concepts that were virtually ripped from the headlines of science fiction’s pulp magazines. — GeekWire

Goldman Sachs: Space-Mining for Platinum is ‘More Realistic Than Perceived’

Goldman Sachs is bullish on space mining with “asteroid-grabbing spacecraft.” In a 98-page note for clients seen by Business Insider, analyst Noah Poponak and his team argue that platinum mining in space is getting cheaper and easier, and the rewards are becoming greater as time goes by. “While the psychological barrier to mining asteroids is high, the actual financial and technological barriers are far lower. Prospecting probes can likely be built for tens of millions of dollars each and Caltech has suggested an asteroid-grabbing spacecraft could cost $2.6bn,” the report says. $2.6 billion (£2 billion) sounds like a lot, but it is only about one-third the amount that has been invested in Uber, putting the price well within reach of today’s VC funds. It is also a comparable to the setup cost for a regular earthbound mine. (An MIT paper estimates a new rare earth metal mine can cost up to $1 billion, from scratch.) — Business Insider


Boeing Unveils ‘Deep Space Gateway’ Stepping Stones to Mars

Boeing unveiled preliminary design concepts this week for a deep space station that would orbit the Moon as a base for humans to safely explore space from the Moon to Mars. The concept drawings and details were released at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. At the same time, Boeing also unveiled a first look at a transport system that could ferry astronauts from the deep space station to Mars. Boeing was one of six companies NASA selected in 2016 to develop prototypes and concepts for deep space habitats and transport vehicles. The others are Bigelow Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada and NanoRacks. — Huntsville Times

Boeing says its Deep Space Gateway habitat “could support research and help open opportunities for global government or commercial partnerships in deep space, including lunar missions.”


Redefining NASA

As the space community changes, should NASA also change? Zach Miller starts a three-part series by looking at the origins and fiscal constraints of the agency. — Space Review

Created with text from an old Apollo era report from NASA. Decades after its Cold War origins, what it NASA’s role today?


ZERO-G Research Flights Aim to Advance Deep-Space Tech

As part of NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, Zero Gravity Corp. (ZERO-G) recently worked with research groups from University of Florida, Carthage College and University of Maryland to validate technology designed to further humanity’s reach into space. A collection of flights on G-FORCE ONE, ZERO-G’s specially modified Boeing 727, gave researchers the chance to run experiments and test innovative systems in the only FAA-approved, manned microgravity lab on Earth.

Working with engineers at Kennedy Space Center, a team of students led by Carthage College Professor Kevin Crosby developed the Modal Propellant Gauging (MPG) Project. MPG is a non-invasive, real-time and low-cost method of measuring liquid propellant volume by analyzing sound waves produced by vibrations applied to the tank. — Space Daily